Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works




          IN one of those excursions (may they ne'er
          Fade from remembrance!) through the Northern tracts
          Of Cambria ranging with a youthful friend,
          I left Bethgelert's huts at couching-time,
          And westward took my way, to see the sun
          Rise, from the top of Snowdon. To the door
          Of a rude cottage at the mountain's base
          We came, and roused the shepherd who attends
          The adventurous stranger's steps, a trusty guide;
          Then, cheered by short refreshment, sallied forth.          10

            It was a close, warm, breezeless summer night,
          Wan, dull, and glaring, with a dripping fog
          Low-hung and thick that covered all the sky;
          But, undiscouraged, we began to climb
          The mountain-side. The mist soon girt us round,
          And, after ordinary travellers' talk
          With our conductor, pensively we sank
          Each into commerce with his private thoughts:
          Thus did we breast the ascent, and by myself
          Was nothing either seen or heard that checked               20
          Those musings or diverted, save that once
          The shepherd's lurcher, who, among the crags,
          Had to his joy unearthed a hedgehog, teased
          His coiled-up prey with barkings turbulent.
          This small adventure, for even such it seemed
          In that wild place and at the dead of night,
          Being over and forgotten, on we wound
          In silence as before. With forehead bent
          Earthward, as if in opposition set
          Against an enemy, I panted up                               30
          With eager pace, and no less eager thoughts.
          Thus might we wear a midnight hour away,
          Ascending at loose distance each from each,
          And I, as chanced, the foremost of the band;
          When at my feet the ground appeared to brighten,
          And with a step or two seemed brighter still;
          Nor was time given to ask or learn the cause,
          For instantly a light upon the turf
          Fell like a flash, and lo! as I looked up,
          The Moon hung naked in a firmament                          40
          Of azure without cloud, and at my feet
          Rested a silent sea of hoary mist.
          A hundred hills their dusky backs upheaved
          All over this still ocean; and beyond,
          Far, far beyond, the solid vapours stretched,
          In headlands, tongues, and promontory shapes,
          Into the main Atlantic, that appeared
          To dwindle, and give up his majesty,
          Usurped upon far as the sight could reach.
          Not so the ethereal vault; encroachment none                50
          Was there, nor loss; only the inferior stars
          Had disappeared, or shed a fainter light
          In the clear presence of the full-orbed Moon,
          Who, from her sovereign elevation, gazed
          Upon the billowy ocean, as it lay
          All meek and silent, save that through a rift--
          Not distant from the shore whereon we stood,
          A fixed, abysmal, gloomy, breathing-place--
          Mounted the roar of waters, torrents, streams
          Innumerable, roaring with one voice!                        60
          Heard over earth and sea, and, in that hour,
          For so it seemed, felt by the starry heavens.

            When into air had partially dissolved
          That vision, given to spirits of the night
          And three chance human wanderers, in calm thought
          Reflected, it appeared to me the type
          Of a majestic intellect, its acts
          And its possessions, what it has and craves,
          What in itself it is, and would become.
          There I beheld the emblem of a mind                         70
          That feeds upon infinity, that broods
          Over the dark abyss, intent to hear
          Its voices issuing forth to silent light
          In one continuous stream; a mind sustained
          By recognitions of transcendent power,
          In sense conducting to ideal form,
          In soul of more than mortal privilege.
          One function, above all, of such a mind
          Had Nature shadowed there, by putting forth,
          'Mid circumstances awful and sublime,                       80
          That mutual domination which she loves
          To exert upon the face of outward things,
          So moulded, joined, abstracted, so endowed
          With interchangeable supremacy,
          That men, least sensitive, see, hear, perceive,
          And cannot choose but feel. The power, which all
          Acknowledge when thus moved, which Nature thus
          To bodily sense exhibits, is the express
          Resemblance of that glorious faculty
          That higher minds bear with them as their own.              90
          This is the very spirit in which they deal
          With the whole compass of the universe:
          They from their native selves can send abroad
          Kindred mutations; for themselves create
          A like existence; and, whene'er it dawns
          Created for them, catch it, or are caught
          By its inevitable mastery,
          Like angels stopped upon the wing by sound
          Of harmony from Heaven's remotest spheres.
          Them the enduring and the transient both                   100
          Serve to exalt; they build up greatest things
          From least suggestions; ever on the watch,
          Willing to work and to be wrought upon,
          They need not extraordinary calls
          To rouse them; in a world of life they live,
          By sensible impressions not enthralled,
          But by their quickening impulse made more prompt
          To hold fit converse with the spiritual world,
          And with the generations of mankind
          Spread over time, past, present, and to come,              110
          Age after age, till Time shall be no more.
          Such minds are truly from the Deity,
          For they are Powers; and hence the highest bliss
          That flesh can know is theirs--the consciousness
          Of Whom they are, habitually infused
          Through every image and through every thought,
          And all affections by communion raised
          From earth to heaven, from human to divine;
          Hence endless occupation for the Soul,
          Whether discursive or intuitive;                           120
          Hence cheerfulness for acts of daily life,
          Emotions which best foresight need not fear,
          Most worthy then of trust when most intense.
          Hence, amid ills that vex and wrongs that crush
          Our hearts--if here the words of Holy Writ
          May with fit reverence be applied--that peace
          Which passeth understanding, that repose
          In moral judgments which from this pure source
          Must come, or will by man be sought in vain.

            Oh! who is he that hath his whole life long              130
          Preserved, enlarged, this freedom in himself?
          For this alone is genuine liberty:
          Where is the favoured being who hath held
          That course unchecked, unerring, and untired,
          In one perpetual progress smooth and bright?--
          A humbler destiny have we retraced,
          And told of lapse and hesitating choice,
          And backward wanderings along thorny ways:
          Yet--compassed round by mountain solitudes,
          Within whose solemn temple I received                      140
          My earliest visitations, careless then
          Of what was given me; and which now I range,
          A meditative, oft a suffering, man--
          Do I declare--in accents which, from truth
          Deriving cheerful confidence, shall blend
          Their modulation with these vocal streams--
          That, whatsoever falls my better mind,
          Revolving with the accidents of life,
          May have sustained, that, howsoe'er misled,
          Never did I, in quest of right and wrong,                  150
          Tamper with conscience from a private aim;
          Nor was in any public hope the dupe
          Of selfish passions; nor did ever yield
          Wilfully to mean cares or low pursuits,
          But shrunk with apprehensive jealousy
          From every combination which might aid
          The tendency, too potent in itself,
          Of use and custom to bow down the soul
          Under a growing weight of vulgar sense,
          And substitute a universe of death                         160
          For that which moves with light and life informed,
          Actual, divine, and true. To fear and love,
          To love as prime and chief, for there fear ends,
          Be this ascribed; to early intercourse,
          In presence of sublime or beautiful forms,
          With the adverse principles of pain and joy--
          Evil as one is rashly named by men
          Who know not what they speak. By love subsists
          All lasting grandeur, by pervading love;
          That gone, we are as dust.--Behold the fields              170
          In balmy spring-time full of rising flowers
          And joyous creatures; see that pair, the lamb
          And the lamb's mother, and their tender ways
          Shall touch thee to the heart; thou callest this love,
          And not inaptly so, for love it is,
          Far as it carries thee. In some green bower
          Rest, and be not alone, but have thou there
          The One who is thy choice of all the world:
          There linger, listening, gazing, with delight
          Impassioned, but delight how pitiable!                     180
          Unless this love by a still higher love
          Be hallowed, love that breathes not without awe;
          Love that adores, but on the knees of prayer,
          By heaven inspired; that frees from chains the soul,
          Lifted, in union with the purest, best,
          Of earth-born passions, on the wings of praise
          Bearing a tribute to the Almighty's Throne.

            This spiritual Love acts not nor can exist
          Without Imagination, which, in truth,
          Is but another name for absolute power                     190
          And clearest insight, amplitude of mind,
          And Reason in her most exalted mood.
          This faculty hath been the feeding source
          Of our long labour: we have traced the stream
          From the blind cavern whence is faintly heard
          Its natal murmur; followed it to light
          And open day; accompanied its course
          Among the ways of Nature, for a time
          Lost sight of it bewildered and engulphed;
          Then given it greeting as it rose once more                200
          In strength, reflecting from its placid breast
          The works of man and face of human life;
          And lastly, from its progress have we drawn
          Faith in life endless, the sustaining thought
          Of human Being, Eternity, and God.

            Imagination having been our theme,
          So also hath that intellectual Love,
          For they are each in each, and cannot stand
          Dividually.--Here must thou be, O Man!
          Power to thyself; no Helper hast thou here;                210
          Here keepest thou in singleness thy state:
          No other can divide with thee this work:
          No secondary hand can intervene
          To fashion this ability; 'tis thine,
          The prime and vital principle is thine
          In the recesses of thy nature, far
          From any reach of outward fellowship,
          Else is not thine at all. But joy to him,
          Oh, joy to him who here hath sown, hath laid
          Here, the foundation of his future years!                  220
          For all that friendship, all that love can do,
          All that a darling countenance can look
          Or dear voice utter, to complete the man,
          Perfect him, made imperfect in himself,
          All shall be his: and he whose soul hath risen
          Up to the height of feeling intellect
          Shall want no humbler tenderness; his heart
          Be tender as a nursing mother's heart;
          Of female softness shall his life be full,
          Of humble cares and delicate desires,                      230
          Mild interests and gentlest sympathies.

            Child of my parents! Sister of my soul!
          Thanks in sincerest verse have been elsewhere
          Poured out for all the early tenderness
          Which I from thee imbibed: and 'tis most true
          That later seasons owed to thee no less;
          For, spite of thy sweet influence and the touch
          Of kindred hands that opened out the springs
          Of genial thought in childhood, and in spite
          Of all that unassisted I had marked                        240
          In life or nature of those charms minute
          That win their way into the heart by stealth
          (Still to the very going-out of youth)
          I too exclusively esteemed 'that' love,
          And sought 'that' beauty, which, as Milton sings,
          Hath terror in it. Thou didst soften down
          This over-sternness; but for thee, dear Friend!
          My soul, too reckless of mild grace, had stood
          In her original self too confident,
          Retained too long a countenance severe;                    250
          A rock with torrents roaring, with the clouds
          Familiar, and a favourite of the stars:
          But thou didst plant its crevices with flowers,
          Hang it with shrubs that twinkle in the breeze,
          And teach the little birds to build their nests
          And warble in its chambers. At a time
          When Nature, destined to remain so long
          Foremost in my affections, had fallen back
          Into a second place, pleased to become
          A handmaid to a nobler than herself,                       260
          When every day brought with it some new sense
          Of exquisite regard for common things,
          And all the earth was budding with these gifts
          Of more refined humanity, thy breath,
          Dear Sister! was a kind of gentler spring
          That went before my steps. Thereafter came
          One whom with thee friendship had early paired;
          She came, no more a phantom to adorn
          A moment, but an inmate of the heart,
          And yet a spirit, there for me enshrined                   270
          To penetrate the lofty and the low;
          Even as one essence of pervading light
          Shines, in the brightest of ten thousand stars
          And the meek worm that feeds her lonely lamp
          Couched in the dewy grass.
                                      With such a theme,
          Coleridge! with this my argument, of thee
          Shall I be silent? O capacious Soul!
          Placed on this earth to love and understand,
          And from thy presence shed the light of love,
          Shall I be mute, ere thou be spoken of?                    280
          Thy kindred influence to my heart of hearts
          Did also find its way. Thus fear relaxed
          Her overweening grasp; thus thoughts and things
          In the self-haunting spirit learned to take
          More rational proportions; mystery,
          The incumbent mystery of sense and soul,
          Of life and death, time and eternity,
          Admitted more habitually a mild
          Interposition--a serene delight
          In closelier gathering cares, such as become               290
          A human creature, howsoe'er endowed,
          Poet, or destined for a humbler name;
          And so the deep enthusiastic joy,
          The rapture of the hallelujah sent
          From all that breathes and is, was chastened, stemmed
          And balanced by pathetic truth, by trust
          In hopeful reason, leaning on the stay
          Of Providence; and in reverence for duty,
          Here, if need be, struggling with storms, and there
          Strewing in peace life's humblest ground with herbs,       300
          At every season green, sweet at all hours.

            And now, O Friend! this history is brought
          To its appointed close: the discipline
          And consummation of a Poet's mind,
          In everything that stood most prominent,
          Have faithfully been pictured; we have reached
          The time (our guiding object from the first)
          When we may, not presumptuously, I hope,
          Suppose my powers so far confirmed, and such
          My knowledge, as to make me capable                        310
          Of building up a Work that shall endure.
          Yet much hath been omitted, as need was;
          Of books how much! and even of the other wealth
          That is collected among woods and fields,
          Far more: for Nature's secondary grace
          Hath hitherto been barely touched upon,
          The charm more superficial that attends
          Her works, as they present to Fancy's choice
          Apt illustrations of the moral world,
          Caught at a glance, or traced with curious pains.          320

            Finally, and above all, O Friend! (I speak
          With due regret) how much is overlooked
          In human nature and her subtle ways,
          As studied first in our own hearts, and then
          In life among the passions of mankind,
          Varying their composition and their hue,
          Where'er we move, under the diverse shapes
          That individual character presents
          To an attentive eye. For progress meet,
          Along this intricate and difficult path,                   330
          Whate'er was wanting, something had I gained,
          As one of many schoolfellows compelled,
          In hardy independence, to stand up
          Amid conflicting interests, and the shock
          Of various tempers; to endure and note
          What was not understood, though known to be;
          Among the mysteries of love and hate,
          Honour and shame, looking to right and left,
          Unchecked by innocence too delicate,
          And moral notions too intolerant,                          340
          Sympathies too contracted. Hence, when called
          To take a station among men, the step
          Was easier, the transition more secure,
          More profitable also; for, the mind
          Learns from such timely exercise to keep
          In wholesome separation the two natures,
          The one that feels, the other that observes.

            Yet one word more of personal concern;--
          Since I withdrew unwillingly from France,
          I led an undomestic wanderer's life,                       350
          In London chiefly harboured, whence I roamed,
          Tarrying at will in many a pleasant spot
          Of rural England's cultivated vales
          Or Cambrian solitudes. A youth--(he bore
          The name of Calvert--it shall live, if words
          Of mine can give it life,) in firm belief
          That by endowments not from me withheld
          Good might be furthered--in his last decay
          By a bequest sufficient for my needs
          Enabled me to pause for choice, and walk                   360
          At large and unrestrained, nor damped too soon
          By mortal cares. Himself no Poet, yet
          Far less a common follower of the world,
          He deemed that my pursuits and labours lay
          Apart from all that leads to wealth, or even
          A necessary maintenance insures,
          Without some hazard to the finer sense;
          He cleared a passage for me, and the stream
          Flowed in the bent of Nature.
                                         Having now
          Told what best merits mention, further pains               370
          Our present purpose seems not to require,
          And I have other tasks. Recall to mind
          The mood in which this labour was begun,
          O Friend! The termination of my course
          Is nearer now, much nearer; yet even then,
          In that distraction and intense desire,
          I said unto the life which I had lived,
          Where art thou? Hear I not a voice from thee
          Which 'tis reproach to hear? Anon I rose
          As if on wings, and saw beneath me stretched               380
          Vast prospect of the world which I had been
          And was; and hence this Song, which, like a lark,
          I have protracted, in the unwearied heavens
          Singing, and often with more plaintive voice
          To earth attempered and her deep-drawn sighs,
          Yet centring all in love, and in the end
          All gratulant, if rightly understood.

            Whether to me shall be allotted life,
          And, with life, power to accomplish aught of worth,
          That will be deemed no insufficient plea                   390
          For having given the story of myself,
          Is all uncertain: but, beloved Friend!
          When, looking back, thou seest, in clearer view
          Than any liveliest sight of yesterday,
          That summer, under whose indulgent skies,
          Upon smooth Quantock's airy ridge we roved
          Unchecked, or loitered 'mid her sylvan combs,
          Thou in bewitching words, with happy heart,
          Didst chaunt the vision of that Ancient Man,
          The bright-eyed Mariner, and rueful woes                   400
          Didst utter of the Lady Christabel;
          And I, associate with such labour, steeped
          In soft forgetfulness the livelong hours,
          Murmuring of him who, joyous hap, was found,
          After the perils of his moonlight ride,
          Near the loud waterfall; or her who sate
          In misery near the miserable Thorn--
          When thou dost to that summer turn thy thoughts,
          And hast before thee all which then we were,
          To thee, in memory of that happiness,                      410
          It will be known, by thee at least, my Friend!
          Felt, that the history of a Poet's mind
          Is labour not unworthy of regard;
          To thee the work shall justify itself.

            The last and later portions of this gift
          Have been prepared, not with the buoyant spirits
          That were our daily portion when we first
          Together wantoned in wild Poesy,
          But, under pressure of a private grief,
          Keen and enduring, which the mind and heart,               420
          That in this meditative history
          Have been laid open, needs must make me feel
          More deeply, yet enable me to bear
          More firmly; and a comfort now hath risen
          From hope that thou art near, and wilt be soon
          Restored to us in renovated health;
          When, after the first mingling of our tears,
          'Mong other consolations, we may draw
          Some pleasure from this offering of my love.

            Oh! yet a few short years of useful life,                430
          And all will be complete, thy race be run,
          Thy monument of glory will be raised;
          Then, though (too weak to tread the ways of truth)
          This age fall back to old idolatry,
          Though men return to servitude as fast
          As the tide ebbs, to ignominy and shame,
          By nations, sink together, we shall still
          Find solace--knowing what we have learnt to know,
          Rich in true happiness if allowed to be
          Faithful alike in forwarding a day                         440
          Of firmer trust, joint labourers in the work
          (Should Providence such grace to us vouchsafe)
          Of their deliverance, surely yet to come.
          Prophets of Nature, we to them will speak
          A lasting inspiration, sanctified
          By reason, blest by faith: what we have loved,
          Others will love, and we will teach them how;
          Instruct them how the mind of man becomes
          A thousand times more beautiful than the earth
          On which he dwells, above this frame of things             450
          (Which, 'mid all revolution in the hopes
          And fears of men, doth still remain unchanged)
          In beauty exalted, as it is itself
          Of quality and fabric more divine.




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